Are You Ready? September is National Preparedness Month

How prepared is your business for a disaster? Though we all hope a disaster will never happen on our own turf, we can never be 100% sure that it won’t. The businesses that stand the best chance of survival and recovery are those that prepare in advance. Here’s what you need to consider.

Considering the hurricanes that are sweeping the Gulf Coast and the East Coast, and the other natural disasters that are causing damage to homes and businesses across the country, it seems appropriate that September is National Preparedness Month. And as we all know, it was on September 11th in 2001 that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by terrorists.

Be serious, be prepared, the Department of Homeland Security advises.

“National Preparedness Month is an important reminder about each American’s civic responsibility to prepare for emergencies,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “Those with the capacity and wherewithal to help themselves must do so in advance, so that in the event of an emergency, responders can first assist those unable to tend to themselves. From wildfires and earthquakes in California, to hurricanes and tropical storms along the Gulf Coast, to flooding in the Midwest, recent events remind us more than ever that we must prepare ourselves and our families for a disaster. This is the time of year, each year, when every American should ask the question, ‘Am I ready?'”

Homeland Security’s Ready campaign ( is sponsoring the fifth annual National Preparedness Month with support from more than 2,700 coalition members from national, state, and local agencies and organizations. The advertising campaign is designed to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and communities.

“There’s a tendency — and it’s human nature — to think that a large-scale disaster is not going to happen where you live,” said Small Business Administration (SBA) Acting Administrator Sandy K. Baruah. “Accepting the inevitability of an emergency, and then taking responsibility for your own recovery are the necessary first steps towards protecting your family, your assets, and your community.”

The SBA suggests that an emergency plan is as important as your business plan. An emergency plan may make the difference between being shut down for a few days, and losing your livelihood. The SBA also advises that you meet with an insurance agent who understands the needs of your business. Business-interruption insurance replaces income lost when a business suffers downtime due to disasters. It is important o know what your insurance does not cover.

As a business owner, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Am I prepared to relocate temporarily?

What would happen if my suppliers shut down?

Do my employees know what to do in case of an emergency?

The SBA also suggests that you — or someone you appoint — should act as a safety coordinator and take responsibility for planning safety drills and developing evacuation plans. Someone — yourself or someone you appoint — should act as the company spokesperson and implement a recovery communication plan. In the aftermath of an emergency, you will need to contact suppliers, creditors, employees, customers, media and utility companies to get the word out that your business is viable.

The Ready campaign suggests that business owners should keep copies of important records such as site maps, building plans, insurance policies, employees contact and identification information, bank account records, supplier and shipping contact lists, computer backup files, emergency and law enforcement contact information and other priority documents in a waterproof and fireproof portable container. It is also advisable to store a second set of records at an off-site location. Business owners should also encourage all of their employees to have a portable emergency kit customized to meet their personal needs, such as essential medications.

I spent a good part of my 37 years in the U.S. Navy and the Defense Department developing and coordinating emergency plans; such as continuity of operations (COOP), emergency evacuation and Shelter-in-Place plans. What I learned during my watch was that in addition to having good plans, you also have to train, and you have to drill.

Many people think emergency training and drilling is a waste of time and resources, but in the event of a true emergency you’ll be glad that you are prepared. Your business, and your life and the lives of your employees, may very well count on it.

We should all be prepared to face and recover from both natural disasters and terrorist attacks. To get help developing your emergency plan you can go to

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